Heil Valley Ranch – 2019 Preview

You may have hiked the memorable trails at Heil Valley Ranch such as the Lichen Loop, Wapiti Trail, and the new Overland Loop. You’ve created memories in the vast pine forests, peered over the sharp-cut canyons, and felt the crisp cool breezes on your face. You might have even taken a selfie or two in the open meadows full of wildflowers. And if you think it could not get any better than that, think again…there will be even more to enjoy in 2019 when the department opens Heil Valley Ranch 2.

Before you visit Heil Valley Ranch to enjoy the new trails opening on Heil 2 in 2019, we want to share a few things.

A Family Affair

Bud Heil and his family owned the land beginning in 1949 and it served as a working ranch, where they raised cows and horses. Heil Ranch hosted frequent paintball games, the annual Beer and Steer event, hayrides, and military trainings. In 1996, Boulder County purchased 1,214 acres of the property to create Heil Valley Ranch Open Space. The Heil family continued ranching operations on another 210 acres of the space, but the remainder of the property was purchased by the county in 2012.

Among this year’s Youth Corps working at Heil Valley Ranch was Zachary Heil who grew up visiting the ranch as a child. After his grandfather, Bud Heil, passed away in 2016, Zachary decided to preserve his grandfather’s legacy by pursuing a career in environmental science, and in 2018 he applied to work for the Boulder County Youth Corps. As a member of the corps, Zachary hopes to share his love of Heil Valley Ranch with other teens.

The Youth Corps gives teens, like Zachary, ages 14 to 17 an opportunity to help in open space management activities, develop leadership skills, and foster a strong work ethic, all while admiring and respecting the natural beauty around them. In fact, Zachary specifically requested to be assigned to building new trails at Heil Valley Ranch and contributed to the construction of the not-yet-named east side trail.

What’s To Come

After a public open house and several revisions, the “Heil 2 Small Area Plan” was completed in 2016. This plan provides Boulder County residents with a guide and provides instructions to completing the management goals of the property. It also provides “do and do not” outlines for how to protect the scenic quality, the ecosystem functions, the various wildlife communities, and the potential outdoor recreation and cultural interpretation opportunities that do not impact sensitive resources.

By spring of 2019, a trail will be constructed on both the west and east side of the newly acquired property. Connecting to the existing Overland Loop, the Altona Schoolhouse and the accompanying Schoolhouse Loop are undergoing restoration on the west end. The Schoolhouse Loop is a beginner trail for new mountain bikers. School groups can arrange a field trip to go back in time and experience an old-fashioned school day inside the historical schoolhouse, just like multiple generations of Boulder County children did from 1880 to the late 1940s.

On the east side, a pedestrian and equestrian trail is being constructed to connect the corral area with the Altona Schoolhouse and the current Heil Valley Ranch trailhead. All will be able to get a closer look at the Grindstone Quarry, as well as witness two rare plant alliances. Vegetation at Heil Valley Ranch has been strongly influenced by former ranching operations. However, despite human impact, weeds, and the effects of invasive plant species, plant diversity has thrived and an unconventional alliance between natural perennial bunchgrass and feathergrass has taken hold.

A lot is happening at Heil Valley Ranch and we hope to see you in 2019.